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Exile on Speed Street

Charlotte rolls with the cars and stars during race week QC After Dark

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Normally, I jump start every morning with Regis and Kelly and a side of espresso, but last Friday was a little different. I kicked off the day at the live taping of Regis and Kelly at Lowe's Motor Speedway -- plus three espressos (considering I had to be there at 6am).

Technically, it wasn't nightlife. But it felt like it. As I was standing in line, a producer asked if anyone was interested in being the "Trivia a Go-Go dancer." After a go-go dance off alongside 30 other caffeinated women, I was selected to make a live cameo on national television. While onstage doing my thing, Kelly Ripa turns to me and says (on camera), "You're adorable!" Thanks for the ego snack, Kelly.

After my 15 seconds of fame, I walked behind the makeshift stage on the racetrack and met my hometown hero, country superstar Phil Vassar. While chatting about our hick town of Harrisonburg, VA, Vassar asked where to go in Charlotte. I recommended he go see his buddy Blake Shelton down at Speed Street, but he opted to hang out with the Uptown Girls (more dish later).

Vassar went on the show, and off came Cars star Owen Wilson; I spent the rest of the morning with him. Learning that I was a writer, he grabbed the handy copy of the Loaf I had with me, walked over to a nearby couch, sat down and started reading. I pinched myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. Then a reporter from the Observer came over to interview him. Being new to NASCAR, Wilson asked me what a race was like. My summation: "It's Woodstock for rednecks." His response: "I am quoting you in my Good Morning America interview."

Later that night, Vassar called to see if I wanted to join him and his band for dinner at Boardwalk Billy's in University, but I had to decline as I was headed to the world premiere of Disney's Cars at the Speedway with my mom as my date. Upon arrival, I met up with Wilson before he made his red carpet walk.

Eventually, the curtain closed on the movie and opened on a wild night: I recruited the Uptown Girls to go meet Vassar and hang where his tour bus was camped out. We partied like a country version of Almost Famous. Since Vassar has penned a large percentage of the country songs on the radio these days, we joked about him writing rap songs and performed freestyle "hick-hop."

Saturday night, I hit Speed Street uptown. Using my all-access pass provided by Chris Cagle's manager, I joined the country carnival comprised of tour buses belonging to QC After Dark's infamous country star, as well as Trent Tomlinson, Keith Anderson and Bomshel. I talked with (my favorite) radio hosts Paul and Sarah from 96.9 the Kat's morning show, ate chicken chez Cagle, mingled in the diverse crowds along Tryon and watched twangy concerts from stage right. Meanwhile, Jennifer Hornaday put the bud in Budweiser by providing us with VIP bracelets to their tent that even my all-access pass couldn't arrange. Post-show, we somehow ended up at a pajama party on Bomshel's bus. Buffy, a member of this new group on Tim McGraw's label, said the definition of a bombshell is a woman who can go to the grocery store sans make-up and who understands the importance of chocolate and mashed potatoes. Amen, sister! Then she asked us, "What do y'all do, just hang out with famous people?" Well, last weekend at least.

The slumber party was followed by Sunday night spent watching the Coca-Cola 600 from my rag-top Wrangler in the Speedway's infield.

However, the highlight of my weekend was driving through uptown with the Uptown Girls in my jeep, top down, bumping Kenny Chesney and having Speed Street foot traffic sing along.

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